One of the other things we did for fun on the Gettysburg Volunteer Service Vacation was go on a tour of Barksdale’s Charge with a licensed battlefield guide. (No, Pickett wasn’t the only one who charged at Gettysburg.) I’ve always wanted to take a tour with a licensed guide so I was super excited to do this. Actually, I’ve been interested in becoming a licensed guide myself, but I wasn’t sure what steps to take to get there.

I do know there is a long application process before someone gets their badge and license, and most people aren’t able to get through all the steps. So I’ve always been able to talk myself out of trying. However, after the trip to Gettysburg I was determined to go for it. If I failed, at least I’d tried. Since my undergraduate degree is in International Studies, I decided to look in to grad school programs with a focus on Civil War Studies. One of the things I learned in Gettysburg was that a lot of people trying to become licensed guides come with a fantastic knowledge of Gettysburg, but don’t know much about the rest of the Civil War and that’s where they get tripped up in the process. The program obviously wants people who know Gettysburg well, but knowledge of the war as a whole is important too.

I talked to a few family members and friends, all of whom told me to go for it yesterday. Once I had some gentle encouragement and one Gibbs’ head slap (Thanks Amy.) I started really looking for programs. I found what seemed to be a good online program and asked my college professor sister to take a look at it. Once she said it looked good I applied. I was accepted right away, and the financial side of things fell into place pretty easily as well. By the end of October, I had everything squared away for my classes to start in December. I needed to order the books, but they weren’t all listed on the website yet. I knew ordering books wouldn’t take long once I knew what I needed and I’d have everything ready to be a student again.

I was a little nervous about going back to school, but I was excited to take the first step towards my eventual goal.

So everything was going great, right? Here’s where I got black flagged on the last lap

In November, about two weeks before my first classes were going to start, I got diagnosed with breast cancer. After talking to my oncologist and coming to understand what all was going to be involved in my treatment, I made the decision to withdraw from my grad school classes. I was upset but I realized that this was a postponement, not a cancellation.

I don’t know when I’ll sign up for school again, but I will. In talking with a friend she suggested other leads for programs of Civil War study. I haven’t explored them yet but I’m going to check on her tips before re-applying to my original school choice.

And as it turns out, I learned a lot over the past 9 months of cancer treatment, though it is a whole different kind of educational program. But more on that another day.